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June 12, 2020

e for environment

Raising children today comes with the added responsibility of instilling in them a broader awareness of their surroundings from an early age. Verve presents some parental guidance….

THE INITIATION

When did you first have the conversation about sustainability with your kids?

My wife and I started explaining simpler ideas of why trees are important and why we need to save water when the girls were around three years old. We involved them in gardening and community exercises where they planted saplings. As they grew older we spoke to them about the depletion of the ozone layer and global warming in a way they would understand.

More than having a discussion, you set an example. When children see you living a certain lifestyle, they take to that. So if you tend to follow sustainable practices, it’s not a big deal for them to absorb it, it’s life as they know it.

I think I’ve been talking about green(er) choices all their lives. I explain to the kids why we do it as a family. It’s an ongoing conversation.

Last year, when my son was three, I began introducing him to the environment and the importance of planting trees, and talking about how one must not waste water.

At schools, we talk about sustainability right from pre-nursery, and the language we choose is age-appropriate.

RECREATION

How do you ensure that your child buys less?

We try to encourage them to make more and buy less. We don’t actively take them to toy shops.

We don’t actually buy much at all but gifts add up. So sharing is the way to go!

We must teach children to be happy with what they have rather than what they want!

Do you encourage the reusing of toys? How important is it to give the product a second life?

Absolutely! From clothes to toys, hand-me-downs are encouraged. Our younger daughter, in fact, loves wearing her elder sister’s clothes, although they have their differences with toys!

From babyhood, my kids have used the clothes, books, toys and even utensils lovingly passed on to them by well-wishers or bought second-hand by me. In turn, I clear out a few bags of things at regular intervals a few times a year so that I can pass them on to other kids. My kids are used to this way of life and like to think of other kids enjoying the same toys they did, as they enjoy the ‘new’ ones they are given.

Using and reusing is a must. I encourage it with all the families I work with. What I discourage is the usage of gadgets; there are so many other ways to learn and play!

TRAVEL

As a family, have you ever discussed how to reduce waste while travelling?

Yes, we have explained the difference between wet and dry waste and have involved them in making compost. Travelling-wise, they are aware that a jet consumes more fuel, but they still want to take a flight so they get more time when we visit their cousins!

My kids have been brought up to pick up their own trash, carry their own water and shopping bags and not waste resources, including disposable napkins and plastic cutlery. They watch us use public transport and mind our petrol use when possible. They know why we do these things and that they are expected to do them too. They are still young and learning, but I hope they carry at least some of these habits into their adult lives too.

We emphasise on conservation of electricity and water — at home, I make sure my son puts off the lights and fans and turns off the tap when not in use.

How open are kids to biking or walking as opposed to using a vehicle?

Very open, though sometimes laziness kicks in and I’m requested to drop them to karate class on my bike. Otherwise, walking is what we do.

They are used to travelling in the family car but are also happy to walk and bike, being independent young people in their own ways.

Depends from family to family. As a family, we walk to nearby places. However, sometimes, a socioeconomic angle creeps in. Or parents think that if there is a car, why not use it?

FOOD

How do you promote sustainability in your kitchen and in your child’s food habits?

I encourage my child to finish what’s on her plate. And I give her freshly cooked meals as often as possible. The most important thing for me is to let her follow her gut; so if she says she is not hungry, I respect that and don’t force food down her throat.

By using biodegradable trash bags; filling a glass only to the extent to which one wants to drink water; switching to steel utensils from plastic; using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins; turning off the tap while applying detergent on utensils while washing them; carrying our own cloth bag for groceries and vegetable shopping; minimising wastage of food….

We encourage the eating of home-cooked food as much as possible.

Have you shared with your kids the importance of avoiding foods that are packaged in plastic and other non-recyclable materials?

Not only are they bad for the environment, but they’re also not good for the tummy. I don’t encourage my daughter to have anything that comes out of a packet. Those are restricted items.

My four-year-old knows that eating food and drinking water stored in plastic is unhealthy. He carries steel tiffin boxes and water bottles to school.

We avoid — and ask parents to avoid — packaged food as much as possible. I have explained to my child why we must try to eat fresh. We try not to use any plastic items.

CLOTHING

Do you encourage reusing and recycling in terms of clothing items?

If it is good to wear once, it is good to wear again. My daughter also sees me upcycling my saris into outfits which fetch a lot of compliments, so she is aware that clothes can and should be recycled. Having said that, she is brand-conscious even though she doesn’t get to own too many branded clothes at this age. So it’s a blend.

Four-year-olds are usually not very fashion-conscious and do not need a large quantity of clothes. Giving away clothes to younger siblings and cousins or to the staff and orphanages also helps them understand the importance of recycling.

We donate used clothes to our staff or the needy. Torn clothes are used as wipes or for dusting.

Are there any organic or otherwise eco-friendly clothing brands that you would recommend to other parents?

There are so many brands which don’t project themselves as organic but still provide great handmade clothes in breathable fabrics.

There are a lot of eco-friendly clothes available in the retail space. Brands like Gumdrops by Good Earth, Greendigo, Koonik, Greenkins, Zeezeezoo, Little Green Kid, etc.

The truth is that I haven’t paid much attention to this option, but I am open to it.

6 essential awareness-building movies/web series according to a parent…

1. MOANA (2016)
107 minutes
Available to watch on Disney+ Hotstar.

2. BRAINCHILD (2018)
1 season, 13 episodes, 30 minutes each
Available to watch on Netflix

3. OUR PLANET (2019 )
1 season, 8 episodes, 48–53 minutes each
Available to watch on Netflix

4. MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE (2018)
104 minutes
Available to watch on Netflix.

5. AVATAR (2009)
162 minutes
Available to watch on Disney+ Hotstar.

6. COCO (2017)
105 minutes
Available to watch on Disney+ Hotstar.

7 environmentally conscious reads…

1. MALU BHALU (1999)
This is a story about Malu, a young polar bear growing up in the North Pole, who finds himself in a fix! A simple story set in rhyme to help teach children about the ice caps melting due to global warming.

2. LET’S PLANT TREES (2011)
The visuals and the text are designed to inspire readers to care for the environment. The book comes with pongamia seeds that children can plant and look after. The packaging is eco-friendly too.

3. LET’S CATCH THE RAIN! (2012)
The sequel to Let’s Plant Trees, this book carries a simple message: rainwater is free, pure and precious — let us do whatever we can to save it.

4. THE FIRST LOOK SCIENCE SERIES (2012)
These books focus on the elements (earth, water and air). Friendly storylines initiate young children into simple scientific notions.

5. BULBULI’S BAMBOO (2012)
Bulbuli lives in a bamboo grove, in a house made out of bamboo. This evocative story spotlights this plant to make a green statement.

6. A BHIL STORY (2012)
The desperate people of a drought-stricken village set off to find a badwa (shaman) who can ask the gods to send rain, but the badwa tells them to go back home and paint instead. An origin story about Bhil art with illustrations in the traditional pithora style.

7. ADITI ADVENTURES: ANTARCTIC MISSION (2020)
A naughty little hobgoblin is running amok in Antarctica, turning the white snow black. As Aditi and gang hasten to stop him, they find that the world is warming up dangerously.

-Inputs from children’s publishing house Tulika Books.

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